Ever since I was a young girl I have always loved France and it was 4 years ago almost exactly that made my first trip across the pond. I spent sometime in England, and then it was on to Nice where I truly fell in love, along the Cote d’Azur. Don’t get me wrong Paris is amazing, Lyon was great too, I would love to see Bordeaux someday, but Nice and South France have my heart.
There is something in the air in South France; it’s the loveliest combination of the salty sea air, lavender, rosemary and citrus all wrapped up in a warm sunny package. I have this reoccurring dream about having my own little cottage in Provence. You know the old stone farmhouse with deep blue wooden shutters on a hillside near the sea? Surrounded by red roses and lavender growing everywhere. There would be a little garden growing in the backyard and a couple of sweet little chickens. It’s ideal right? I guess it gives new meaning to “The American(s) Dream”…
I’ve tried my best to recreate my little French dream here in Texas; I live in a Mediterranean style stone house, surrounded by roses in the front flowerbeds. I’ve planted Provençale Lavender in several places and it has thrived. I even have a sweet little garden in my backyard. But while I love my home, and Texas for that matter, it’s not Provence. It’s missing that certain something. The Je ne sais quoi, that makes France well… France.
So today I’m missing France (again) and despite the fact that it’s summer time here we’ve had so MUCH wonderful rain this past week. All this rain has left me craving one of my French favorites. Boeuf Bourguignon. Then I got to thinking about a recent dish I had for the first time, Cottage Pie… Then I started thinking about my little Dream French Cottage. What do you get when you put it all together?
Here it is….
My Little “French” Cottage Pie
3 Strips of Bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
1¼ Lb. Ground Beef 85/15
3-4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
1 Cup Mushrooms, finely diced
1 Large Onion, diced
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
2 Stocks of Celery, diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Thyme, removed from the stems
1 Tablespoon of Tomato Paste
½ Cup Cognac
2 Cups Pinot Noir
2 Cups Beef Broth
5 Tablespoons Room Temperature Butter
2 Tablespoons of Flour
½ Cup Milk
1 Cup Sharp English Cheddar, grated
¼ Cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped
Kosher Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Prep all of the vegetables as directed above.
Put the potatoes in a large pot of salted cold water and bring to a boil. Cook the Potatoes until fork tender.
In a large heavy bottom pot add 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then fry the chopped Bacon until crisp. Transfer the crisp bacon to a plate. In the same pot, add the ground beef with a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon into very small, fine pieces. Once the beef has browned, add the chopped mushrooms to the beef and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Then transfer the beef and mushroom mixture to the same plate as the bacon.
Add the diced onion, carrot, celery and the two minced cloves of garlic to the pot the beef was just cooking in along with a little salt and pepper. Cook the veggies down over medium low heat until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Then add in the tomato paste and the fresh thyme. Stir everything until the tomato paste has melted into the vegetable mix.
Turn the heat off of the pot and add the ½ cup of Cognac. With a long match or lighter CAREFULLY light the cognac on fire. Once the alcohol has burned off and the flame has dissipated turn the heat back on and add the 2 cups of Pinot Noir (or if you can find a good Burgundy from France use that) and add the beef, mushrooms, bacon, and the 2 cups of beef stock to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low.
Pre-Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl add 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter and 2 tablespoons of flour then mash together with a fork until well combined. Add a couple of spoonful’s the hot beef, vegetable and wine liquid to the mashed butted and flour. Stir the liquid, flour and butter mix until combined then add the slurry back to the pot. Continue to let the beef, vegetables, and wine mixture simmer.
When the potatoes are fork tender, strain off the water then put the potatoes back in the hot pot and let them steam for just a few minutes. Then add the remaining butter and ½ cup of milk to the hot potatoes and mash away. Or if you prefer you can use a potato ricer. I prefer the smooth texture you get from potato ricer. Then add salt and pepper to taste to the mashed potatoes.
***Then transfer the beef mixture to a 9×13 baking dish
Transfer the mashed potatoes into a large zip top bag and squeeze out most of the air. Then cut a little off one of the bottom corners of the bag and pipe the potato mixture on top of the beef mixture in your desired pattern. A spiral or dots work ed great for me.
Sprinkle on the sharp cheddar cheese then place the Cottage Pies in the oven for 20 minutes.
Then turn the oven off and turn the broiler on and cook until the top of the potatoes are crispy and golden brown (about 7-10 minutes)
Take the Cottage Pies out of the oven and allow them to sit for 10 minutes then top with fresh chopped parsley.
Hope you Enjoy My Little “French” Cottage Pies!
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.
***When I make these Cottage Pies, I use 6 individual baking dishes opposed to one big one. You can even use the disposable potpie tins and then freeze the individual cottage pies for a quick weeknight meal.
I’ll leave you with some images of my little “French” inspired garden…